13 Ways to Hunt Intelligent Aliens
Sounds promising, until you consider the sheer size of the Milky Way, which spans more than 100,000 light-years in diameter. Light travels at about 186,000 miles per second, but a signal will still take more than 4 years to reach neighboring system Alpha Centauri and 100,000 years to travel from one end of the galaxy to the other.
“On average, you’d expect the civilizations to be separated by at least 1,000 light-years in the Milky Way. That’s a large distance, and for communication purposes you need to allow for twice the travel distance, so you’re talking about civilizations that have to be around for at least a few thousand years in order to have the opportunity to talk to each other,” Garrett said.
“We don’t really know the time scales in which civilizations persist,” he added.
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The one example available -- Earth -- indicates that life essentially developed as soon as the conditions were right, but intelligent life arose comparatively late.
“It’s really just essentially in the last few minutes of the overall evolution of life on the planet," Garrett said. "I don’t want to be too negative about this, but ... my basic conclusion is that SETI signals will be rare in the Milky Way."
That doesn’t mean astronomers shouldn’t look, he added. Quite the contrary, given the huge technological leaps in radio astronomy and in data processing techniques compared to what was available for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, programs 60 years ago.
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SETI also is benefitting from sister radio astronomy projects, such as the ongoing quest to find the source of mysterious transient radio bursts.
“SETI is not easy, but it’s a pursuit that is well worth doing. The question is so important,” Garrett said. “Everyone is interested, not just scientists and space enthusiasts. People in the street are interested to know what else is out there.”
Comment by Oliviero Mannucci: The problem is another. How you can find the aliens if you don't want see them. Every days, from really time they are in the our skies, there are very more documents about them. They have a technology really more advanced and we looking the contact with them using the Tam Tam. The radio wave are really primitive and slow for them. When scientists will understand this, will be really later.